Joburg says it has no policy for surveillance cameras

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Johannesburg Metro Police spokesperson Wayne Minnaar.
Johannesburg Metro Police spokesperson Wayne Minnaar.

The City of Johannesburg has no policy in place to effectively control the private camera networks that have sprawled across SA’s commercial capital.

The confirmation by Johannesburg Metro Police spokesperson Wayne Minnaar that there is no legally enforceable policy pits the city against the Information Regulator.

The Information Regulator states it is mandatory to have a policy in place before deploying cameras.

The cameras around the city watch every person and car that moves near them, and without a policy, this could potentially pose a legal problem for those operating the cameras.

The Information Regulator on Monday told ITWeb that section 18(1) of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) creates mandatory compliance requirements for operators like the City of Johannesburg (COJ).

The COJ has thousands of private camera networks and the city is expected to have over 15 000 Vumacam cameras in the next year. This is in addition to thousands of other privately controlled camera networks.

The city itself has more than 400 CCTV surveillance cameras that it uses to curb crime.

The CCTV surveillance around Johannesburg is monitored by the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) and the data is stored at the integrated information operations centre control room.

Minnaar says the city is consulting on the policy position.

“There is a document which JMPD, together with other stakeholders, is currently working on to create a policy, for which all CCTV, private and public, will soon have to comply with, from an ethical and legal perspective,” he says.

This is in contradiction with the responsibilities placed on those running camera networks.

Advocate Johannes Weapond, a full-time member at the Information Regulator, told ITWeb: “A responsible party (operators) must make a data subject aware that his or her personal information is being collected, [the] purpose of the collection, whether the personal information is provided on a voluntary or mandatory basis, what are the consequences, if any, for failure to provide the requested information, and if the collection is required under a specific law.”

Professor Jane Duncan from the University of Johannesburg is one critic who has been taking the city to task on this issue and is on record challenging the city: “Aside from the legal issues, before embarking on privacy-invasive projects, the City of Johannesburg really should have developed a policy and consulted the public on it, so that residents could have an opportunity to shape what happens to their data.

“They should have also undertaken privacy impact assessments for each project and released them publicly, together with statements on how they planned to mitigate any risks. The Vumacam project, for instance, should have been preceded by such a process.”

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